Braces for teeth: Singapore dentist pulls out boy's teeth unnecessarily, father lodges complaint

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Braces for teeth, Singapore: This father was shocked when he was told that there was actually no need for his son to have four wisdom teeth removed...

Even after a year of orthodontic treatment, when there were no noticeable changes in Ethan's teeth, his father, Mr. Tim Leo, grew worried.

According to The Straits Times, this is what had happened:

  • Last year, Mr. Leo took Ethan, 13, to WH Dental Surgeons in Hougang to fix his crooked teeth. He expected the treatment to last for 1-2 years.
  • He noticed that even after a year, there wasn't much of a difference in Ethan's teeth, even though, by that time, the dentist had already extracted 8 teeth to make space in his "overcrowded" mouth.
  • Apparently, each time, the clinic would give Ethan "lots of painkillers" as the braces hurt, and caused ulcers in his mouth. The studs on the braces would also fall out.
  • His mother was never allowed into the room when the procedure was being done. Ethan told his mum that the braces were fixed by 2 young men, and the dentist (Dr Sng Wee Hock) would merely have a look.
  • However, upon Mr Leo's enquiry at the clinic, he was told that all treatment was done by Dr Sng himself, and no one else.
  • The cost of extracting the wisdom teeth was $4,150 (charged to Medisave). Extracting the 4 premolar teeth cost less than $400.

Mr. Leo tells the Straits Times, "I trusted Dr Sng when he said there was overcrowding and that the wisdom teeth had to be pulled out."

Finally, when things didn't seem to be working out, a worried Mr. Leo took Ethan to an orthodontist who specialises in braces, for a second opinion.

He was shocked when this orthodontist informed him that there was actually no need for the boy to have his four wisdom teeth removed. Usually dentists try to preserve teeth wherever possible.

In her opinion, the wiring for the braces was wrong, and that was why Ethan had ulcers in his mouth.

Father lodges official complaint

In March this year, Mr Leo lodged an official complaint with the Singapore Dental Council against Dr Sng, for unnecessarily pulling out 4 wisdom teeth, and for getting possibly untrained people to fix Ethan's braces.

He had apparently come across another report earlier this year, about Dr Sng being suspended by the Singapore Dental Council for letting unqualified clinic assistants do the orthodontic work.

This is also not Dr Sng's first brush with the law. Previously, there have been 3 complaints against him, for making claims against Medisave for costly procedures he hadn't done.

He has also been suspended and fined for various offences.

Mr Leo also revealed that he had been offered an out of court settlement by Dr. Sng's lawyer, but had declined it, because he did not want other children to go through the same ordeal as his son.

Dr Seah Tian Ee, president of the Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, told The Straits Times: "At 13 years old, the wisdom teeth are still at an early development phase and the facial skeleton has not reached maturity."

"It is not routine practice to remove wisdom teeth at 13 years old unless they are associated with pathology such as cysts or tumours."

Also, the upper wisdom teeth in such a young boy are usually "closer to the maxillary sinuses" making them more technically difficult to remove with a high risk of perforation. However, in rare cases, wisdom teeth in children may have to be removed for orthodontic reasons.

Other dentists have also opined that, while removing the four premolars was justified to create the space needed, the wisdom teeth removal was not necessary for brace treatment.

Also READ: How to look after your baby's first teeth

(Source: The Straits Times, Image: Screengrab The Straits Times)

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